1. RAY - Ray Charles
Weeks on chart: 23
Style: The gospel-R&B-country blend that made Ray Charles famous.
Worldview: That love consists of highs ("I've Got a Woman," "Hallelujah I Love Her So") and lows ("Unchain My Heart," "Hit the Road Jack"), with time for reminiscing in between ("Georgia on My Mind").
Overall quality: An enjoyable and representative (if not definitive) collection of 17 of the Genius's greatest hits (with three live from 1965 and three live from 1976).
2. ICE PRINCESS - Various artists
Weeks on chart: 2
Style: Predominantly female-sung American Idol-style youth pop.
Worldview: "Whatever you do, you'll never be wrong / as long as you reach for it. / When you reach for it, nothing's too far, / and it's never too long, as long as you reach for it. / You can dream on it. Everywhere it's there" (Carleigh Peters, "Reach").
Overall quality: Generic radio fodder awash in "Up with People" bromides.
3. GARDEN STATE - Various artists
Weeks on chart: 33
Style: Mostly modern mellow folk-rock.
Worldview: "We live in a beautiful world. / Yeah we do, yeah we do" (Coldplay, "Don't Panic"); "One day I'll be wondering how / I got so old just wondering how / I never got cold wearing nothing in the snow" (the Shins, "New Slang").
Overall quality: A euphonious introduction to the mellower sounds that fans of '90s alternative rock are preferring as they push 30.
4. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA - Various artists
Weeks on chart: 18
Style: Typical Andrew Lloyd Webber big-production melodrama.
Worldview: That what's beautiful isn't always lovely and what's lovely isn't always beautiful (and, incidentally, that audiences will apparently buy new versions of this score in perpetuity).
Overall quality: Aside from the show's adult-contemporary hits ("The Music of the Night," "All I Ask of You," "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again"), a tolerance-testing accumulation of bad taste writ large.
5. SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS - Various artists
Weeks on chart: 20
Style: Cartoon ditties and loud rock 'n' roll.
Worldview: "I'm so busy, got nothing to do,/ spent the last two hours just tyin' my shoe. / Every flower, every grain of sand, it's reachin' out to shake my hand. / It's the best day ever" (SpongeBob, "The Best Day Ever").
Overall quality: Fails in the attempt to serve two masters: little kids (hence the goofy cartoon ditties) and their parents (hence the loud rock 'n' roll).
In the spotlight
What the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack did for disco dancing in the '70s and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack did for dirty dancing in the'80s, the Garden State soundtrack (Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax) looks poised to do for just standing, sitting, and lying around in the '00s. Each of the soundtrack's 13 songs traffics in a melodious melancholy distinctly at odds with cutting a rug, with even the two from 1970 (Simon and Garfunkel's "The Only Living Boy in New York" and Nick Drake's "One of These Things First") fitting smoothly into the otherwise contemporary mix.
Unlike the Garden State film itself, which has and deserves an R rating, the soundtrack is inoffensive and often pretty if ultimately insubstantial. But while the film's use of music is subtle and for the most part nondistracting, the soundtrack's songs seem so carefully chosen that it's tempting to suspect that Zach Braff, the film's director, selected them first and constructed the film around them later.